Saturday, May 31, 2014

Timelines.... You'd be surprised how useful they can be!

Here's another one of those tools that I had been trying to figure out for a while. It's called Timeline JS (find it at: It took me a bit of playing around with it, and some "workarounds" as they are called (work·a·round  ˈwərkəˌround/  noun COMPUTING a method for overcoming a problem or limitation in a program or system). 

I wanted to use this tool, which is an interactive, multimedia timeline producer, as a way to get people to introduce themselves at a workshop, in an unusual way - (something I had seen one of my mentors do a while back, and just HAD to figure out). 

The good news is: I finally figured it out. (It entailed using a Googleform that would feed into a Google Spreadsheet, which I would use for copying and pasting data that the participants would send me..... but that is not the usual way to use this tool, as I said - just a fun way to show off a bit ;-)

The even BETTER news is: this is a simple timeline tool that can be used in the classroom collaboratively by both teacher AND students, and it is a lot easier than I had expected!

There are a lot of occasions I can think of just off the top of my head, when a timeline tool can come in handy.

For example: one of the topics we often use in my school for an umbrella topic for projects is "Making a Difference", where the students must choose a famous person who made a difference in the world, and research him or her. Making a timeline of these peoples' lives, using photos, video footage, maps, etc. can really bring the major milestones of a famous person, their achievements, highlights and other interesting events, to life!

Another way to take advantage of this tool could be to make a timeline of events in a piece of literature you are teaching, to help your students follow plot development. It could be used for a short story, a novel or play, or even as a book report task! 

The example that I used here is a partial timeline for the play All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, which many of us teach in high schools in Israel.  It is not complete at the time of publication of this blog post, but the beauty of it is, it can be added to and reposted. So, if you have a look in a few days' time, maybe I will have had time to upload some more events in the story, and they will automatically be seen on this timeline.  Of course, some of the dates are ones I just made up (since it is not mentioned WHEN the events actually happened, I made up approximate dates for the purposes of getting them in the timeline.)

As you can see from this sample, it really drives it home in a more multidimensional
 way than could just a regular word-file timeline. 

It's absolutely easy enough for teachers to use, and to teach to their students.  Here is a clear, short tutorial that explains how it works.

Here is a longer, more detailed walk-thru.


So, what do YOU think? How could YOU use this tool with your classes? I would LOVE to hear YOUR ideas!

Digitally yours,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Venturing Outside my Comfort Zone with LBL

I love my comfort zone (who doesn’t?). Luckily that zone is relatively wide, especially regarding different technological tools. I also enjoy stepping outside of my zone – just for a visit. Just for a while. It enables me to further widen the perimeters of my zone. This week I had the opportunity to do some major zone-breaching.

About a year and a half ago, I experienced a program that enables LBL (Location Based Learning). LBL physically takes the students out of their chairs, out of their classrooms, out of their schools. It gets them on a mission to learn something – actively. It gets them using their mobile devices and collaborating. For me, this is the quintessential objective for a Web 2 tool. Ok – they are still with their screens – but their screens come with THEM (as opposed to them being rooted into their chairs in front of their screens). Their screens are used to further their learning process. Their screens are truly the means, rather than the end.

The name of the tool is “The Wandering” and it is an Israeli application that was developed by Shani Ziv as part of the Idiosyncratic Project. But I am not going to write about the project – you can read that for yourself.  I want to write about my experience.

I had tried playing around with the tool in the past, and I had more or less figured it out. But I could find no clear purpose, no clear aim for persevering until I “got it” – until I learned it well enough to feel it was “mine”. I had found no excuse to drag it into my comfort zone with me (or rather expand my comfort zone until it could encompass the tool).  Until this week.

I was asked to give a 3 ½ hour workshop for Amal EFL teachers, on Teaching the Digital Native: incorporating technology into the EFL classroom.  Ok – I could do that. And I could do that by devising an entire workshop around tools I know and can use with my eyes closed. But no. This sucker for punishment does not know how to do things the easy way. THIS sucker for punishment wanted to do something that would be new and different for even the most advanced of the teachers at that venue. I did my homework first – sent out a GoogleForm to try to gauge the teachers’ proficiency (and it was an EXTREMELY heterogeneous crowd, let me tell you!).  A few of them were very proficient - so I decided that time had come for me to “crack” this “nut” called The Wandering – since none of them had even heard of it!

It took me a while. Before asking for help, I always try to figure things out myself. That is the best way for me to learn, and even if I do not manage completely on my own, at least I learn a lot through my mistakes along the way. As I said – a “sucker for punishment”, but that’s my learning know … there are kinesthetic learners, audio learners, visual learners….sucker-for-punishment learners.

I had spoken with Shani a few weeks earlier, and he had given me a pretty clear direction. In order to build a learning station properly, one needs to be relatively familiar with the venue (which I was NOT). The venue was “Eretz Yisrael Hayafa”, a place I had been a few times, but not very recently. I had intended to pop in when I was in Tel Aviv the previous week, but I didn't get to Tel Aviv, and therefore, didn't get to stake out the joint. Finally, two evenings before the workshop, I had reached the conclusion that since I had not gotten to the venue I would have to present a much simpler LBL task. My plan B was to travel up to the site that same day, and before my workshop was due to start, at noon, I would put together a simpler LBL activity, using barcodes. That was when Talila literally popped up on my FB. She graciously offered to help me use the tool, about which she has become so passionate while using it as an arts teacher.

Numerous hours later – after playing on my own, talking with her and then Shani, and then Talila again on the phone, I had put together something I felt would work.

The application seems a bit complicated to use at first, but once you understand the rationale behind it, it is just a matter of taking the 30 +- minutes it takes to put together a station, and then: voila! You have an LBL activity that you can reuse as needed.

The aim of the activity I put together was to encourage the participants to learn something about the venue at which they were convening, as well as the experience about learning while moving and collaborating (not to mention learning about their smartphones) – mostly by means of observation and manipulation. The activity was based around the fountains that greet you as you enter the building. Unfortunately for us, the building is currently being given a facelift – and the fountains do not currently have water cascading out of them. In fact, you have to look REALLY hard to even see that they are there! Therefore, the participants were asked to find the non-functioning fountains, and do three different things (“stations”):

1. Build a human statue that was inspired by the fountain – including all of the members of their group – and then to have someone NOT in their group take a photograph and upload it to the activity site.

2. Draw a picture imagine the fountain will look like when it is completed, then to take a photograph of it and upload to activity site.

3. Write a short description of the imaginary or haiku and upload that.

The “stations” were built on The Wandering. They were stitched together using another application devised by the same person, called “Experiencity”.

Here is a link to the site where you can see the activity and the products of that activity. First click on “Start” then go to one of the thumbnails of the three different stations, on the right.

  • To get the instructions, the participants had to click the blue button with the “check” mark.
  • To upload a product of their search, the participants had to click on the button with the cloud.


The participants had 45 minutes to do this activity. It wasn't smooth sailing for all. Despite the fact that they were in groups of 3-4 (enabling those who do not have smartphones to participate, as well) some of them had trouble fulfilling the activity and became frustrated before they managed to complete it. Some finished only one station in the given time, others completed all three. ALL of us (including myself) were booted right out of our “comfort zones”. But as I explained at the beginning of the workshop – nobody can learn anything, in any subject, on any topic, unless they are willing to step out of their comfort zone every so often.  I can't wait to find another opportunity to use this tool! If you participate in our summer REED Days, there is a very good chance you will get a taste of it!

Have you ever tried LBL? Have you ever used The Wandering? If you have, please share your impressions, below. 

Digitally yours,

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It’s getting near the end of the year – time to play around

It’s that time of year when a gazillion classes are cancelled, you have basically finished what you intended to do in the syllabus, and yet, you still have a lesson or two left. So what do you do?

Tomorrow is my last lesson in the 10th grade, and we’re going to PARTY!!!!  But, of course, I have my reputation to keep up… so I’m doing it digitally!

First of all, at the end of our previous lesson, I planted the seed (told them that everyone should think of something to bring for brunch.) Then I sent out notifications on What’s App reminding them. Finally, I shared a Google Spreadsheet with the students so they can sign up and write exactly what they are bringing, and see what the others are bringing, as well, so there are no double-ups. (Ok – not everyone has signed up yet – but I trust no one will go hungry)

And what are we going to do while we are chewing?

Well, I have prepared a quiz asking questions about different things that we learnt this year (but not only…. also procedural questions that only kids in my class would know). I had actually asked the students to send me trivia questions that only someone who was in the lessons would know, but none have yet been forthcoming.

Using these questions, I have prepared a Kahoot!  Kahoot! (the exclamation mark is part of the name ;-) is a game-based classroom response system. It uses the principles of gamification, to conduct polls, discussions and quizzes. After building a quiz, you project the screen on the smartboard or through the computer and projector. The students have to download the Kahoot! App. to their smartphones, and they’re ready to play! (If they can't download the app, they can still play by writing "" in their phone's browser. This is also a way to play from laptops and tablets.) 

When you go into your game, a Game-pin number is projected on the board. All the students sign into the game using that number. They are asked for a nickname, and as they sign in, all of their names pop up on the board. Once everyone is signed in, the fun begins. The questions are projected on the board, there is music in the background (warning: it CAN be kind of annoying – you might want to turn it down) and a clock for the count down of how many seconds are left to answer.

After everyone has answered, there is a leaderboard, showing what the correct answer was and announces the people with the 5 top scores so far, and what their scores are. On their devices, the students are told what their placement in and how many points they are behind the leader.

I have used it as a participant, and was very impressed. It is sort of like Socrative only way cooler. I played it with my son today (he thought it was a lot of fun). I will bring in my tablet and my laptop in case some kids are without smartphones. And worst case scenario, they can double up on devices, and play as teams.  

Maybe next year, I will have students make their own quizzes to bring to the class!

The platform is colorful, VERY user- friendly, and really gets the participants hoppin’!  I can’t wait to see what the students in my class think about it tomorrow!

I think it’s a great way to finish up the school year – what do YOU think? Check it out: Kahoot!

Digitally yours,

Of course, not EVERYTHING is digital! The muffins and other things everyone is bringing for a class brunch are real ;-) 
Just as a follow up - the game was a GREAT hit! My students made me promise to use it again next year. 

Although we had some challenges with kids not being able to connect to the wifi of the school, they doubled up, I brought my laptop, tablet and smartphone, and handed that out to some of them, as well. I am not quite sure if they would have had the same problems if they had downloaded the Kahoot! prior to the lesson, but ..... here is what it looked like (for purposes of privacy, I have covered their faces, so, unfortunately you cannot see the excited looks in their eyes. But believe me: they were excited and enthralled!!!! I asked questions that were topic related (related to literature they had learned), general literature questions, and questions about our classroom (ex: what is the hand sign that Adele does when she wants our attention?) The game was exciting, since one specific student lead throughout, and at the very end, another pair pulled up and overtook him! I hope I have left them feeling that we have closed the year with fun and good food (not in the photo - that was after the Kahoot! ;-)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

True Confessions and Live Binders

I have a confession to make.
My name is Adele and I tend to become obsessed.
When I want to achieve something and I have it in my mind that that is what I must do I do not know how to let it go. All these people say that I am so “talented” and such a “computer wiz”. The truth is: it’s obsession, not talent.
As a part of my job as a National Counselor for Digital Pedagogy in Israel,  I have been co- running a series of online sessions (we called them “meetings” since they were optional and no one got any official credit for taking them) regarding implementing digital pedagogy in the classroom. The sessions have been for leading counselors of language teachers in Israel. It has been for teachers of all the different languages not only English as I am used to doing. There were teacher-trainers for French and Russian, as well as Hebrew for Hebrew speakers, Hebrew for Arabic speakers, Arabic for Arabic speakers, Arabic for Hebrew speakers...even Chinese!  These meetings are coming to an end and I wanted to culminate them in a way that these dedicated participants would leave with something in their virtual hands. Something that they could share with the language teachers whom they counsel.
I had seen a tool called “LiveBinders” which is a curation tool, and I was interested in setting up a collaborative tool box of sorts which all of the other counselors could add to and would be a huge collection of digital tools that can be used for teaching languages, in general.
For some reason I did not pick it up as quickly as I thought I would. In fact I was on the verge of throwing up my hands and giving up. I even went so far as to try to build a similar curation site using Google Sites.  I guess the problem was that, while I was editing, it did not look like I expected it to look. And I did not understand how to see what it would look like in viewing mode, as opposed to editing mode. I had found some tutorials, but they were with an older version that looked different.

Until…. in came another counselor whom I greatly admire and who is really on top of these things. She replied to my cry for help in our Digital Pedagogy Facebook group. With her encouragement in her comments on the Facebook group I finally managed to crack it.   
That's when I became obsessed. I spent the entire vacation day of Independence Day learning and searching and building and learning and I finally figured it out. I am very pleased with what I have built and I only hope that the other language counselors with whom I work will get excited enough to jump in and join me by adding more tools and categories that will help language teachers from all over Israel.

This is what it looks like today. Hopefully, in a few months it will be even more populated and in use by language teachers all over Israel.

As my brother-in-law so delicately puts it: "Like a dog with a bone". And now… off to my next obsession……

Digitally yours,


In order to help other language counselors understand how to collaborate with this tool, I prepared a tutorial, (however it is in Hebrew).

Here is playlist of tutorials, in English, (I wish I had seen this BEFORE I spent the whole day trying to learn it by myself ;0).

And finally, the LiveBinders Help

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Actively Learning Passive

 What do you do when you need for your students to work on their own? I'll tell you what I do: I digitalize.

Tomorrow I will be testing some of my students orally on their project work. While they are being tested in pairs I need the rest of them to be meaningfully occupied. We have had little time to devote to explicit grammar instruction or practice this year, What with all of the book reports, project and literature we have been doing (and LORD knows why, but they feel that if they are not being drilled in grammar, they are not learning English ... not that many of them remember the rules). Tomorrow we are going to go passive, very actively.
I embarked on an archaeological expedition in the bowels of my computer and retrieved a number of activities that I have used in the past for teaching and practicing the passive, either as work pages or as PowerPoint presentations.
I made the PowerPoint when I was just learning how to add different animations, because I felt it would serve the need to have words moving around in order to demonstrate how to turn an active sentence into a passive one. However if I am busy testing some of the students I cannot be up at the board at the same time running the PowerPoint presentation. So I recorded it on my screen and uploaded it to YouTube.  I then prepared a barcode of the Internet site, so that students can scan it and watch on their Smartphones (they love doing that! ;-) , and provided a shortened URL, as well (compliments of for those who bring their laptops.

After they watch the presentation they will be sent to do a Trivia Quiz which MUST be answered in the passive! For the trivia quiz they will be called upon to answer questions in a Google Form. I assume they will NOT know ALL (or most) of the answer, so they will also need to go hunting for the answers on the Internet. I am planning to have students do this in pairs that way one can write on the Google Form and the other can search for the information online,  using their smartphones and / or laptops.

In the past, I would have had to print out reams of pages, and bring them to my students to work on the trivia quiz in class. Some of the pages would get lost, others crumbled up and left behind. Not tomorrow!
For those who are quick workers, I have transformed a pen and paper activity which I used in the past, to have students transform an adapted newspaper article about John Lennon’s death, into active. This time, they will need to copy a Googledoc which I share with them (but they cannot edit) and save a copy of their own, in their Googledrive. This might be challenging (or impossible) on their smartphones, since they need to use “Comments” instead of rewriting the sentences. Students who do not get to it in the lesson will do it for homework.
Finally, towards the end of the lesson when I have finished testing the students who need to be tested tomorrow, we will have a low-tech relay race (which I also had saved on my computer from previous years, from "Karin's ESL Partyland" , which I can no longer find online). I'm hoping this will be an interesting and engaging (dare I hope… even entertaining, to an extent?) way to keep the students who are not being tested, learning something new and honing some usefulskills. I'll let you know how it went.
Have any of you done anything similar?